Bad Aim

World War II -- this time it's personal!

But Annaud and Godard aren't content with merely recounting the face-off between two warriors; they insist on recounting the entire myth, which comes complete with a love triangle involving Danilov, Zaitsev, and a Russian soldier named Tania (Rachel Weisz). Danilov wants to use Tania, who can read German, as a translator of intercepted communiqués, but she insists on being assigned to the front. As a Jew whose parents were murdered by the Nazis, she seeks revenge with a rifle, not a pen. Danilov wants Zaitsev to talk her out of fighting, but it's a moot point: The two are comrades in arms in more ways than one. (They make love amidst sleeping soldiers in one touching, almost erotic scene that's less about showing and more about feeling.) Danilov, upon discovering their relationship, goes nearly mad, threatening to "reveal" his heroic sniper as a traitorous coward.

Sniper Law (right) has met the enemy, and he is Fiennes
Sniper Law (right) has met the enemy, and he is Fiennes


Screenplay by Annaud and Alain Godard, based on the book Enemy at the Gates by William Craig

The love story, not to mention the plot holes large enough to swallow entire platoons, so bogs down the movie that whatever tension the Zaitsev-Konig confrontation creates disappears every time Weisz appears on-screen; she tears apart comrades -- and the movie. By the end we care little whether this is a true story or not, because Annaud has rendered his tale so mushy and, worse, predictable that we feel more manipulated than moved. It's as though Annaud had so little faith in his main story that he felt the need to turn a subplot into his entire plot -- World War II as the world's worst first date.

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